Friday, February 5, 2010

Beware of Bibendum

There are a lot of opinions in the world of cycling but only a few truths.  For example, a Roadie and a Dirt Rat can argue all day about their opinions on whether road cycling is better then mountain biking but at the end of the day they both agree to the truth that it’s harder to go uphill then downhill.  And here’s another truth.  If you ride a bike at some point you are going to get a flat.

Here in Sonoma County it’s flat season.  This is when Bibendum, the official name of the Michelin Tire mascot and God of Flat Tires, is at his busiest.  Don’t get me wrong, I deal with flats all year but it’s always a little worse in winter.  I once heard Paul explain why to Phil during the Tour de France.  Paul explained that when it rains “all of the bits of stuff from the road actually stick to your tire like flies to paper. . .” (you should have read that with a British accent).

Cyclists who think they will never get a flat are a lot like people on their way to catch a flight and hoping they won’t have to go through security.  That’s not going to happen and neither is riding without the occasional flat.  It’s kind of funny in a way.  They’ve seen other riders flat and still don’t think it will happen the them.  Then one day they hear that unmistakable pffffff.  The expression on their face tells you they just saw the security line.

I have many, many stories about flats.  There was the time I rode through thorns and my rear tire flatted and as I was changing it I heard the front tire go pffffff.  Are you kidding me?  A twofer?  I flatted a third time less then 2 miles down the road and Mr. Fitness Journal, Chris,  gave me his spare tube.  Just to show us that Bibendum has a sense of humor, Chris flatted a week later and that’s when he remember giving me his spare tube, which he never replaced.

I have run over thorns, glass, nails, you name it.  Perhaps my most interesting flat was when I ran over a utility knife razor blade one day on the single speed.  There was no pffffff.  The blade sliced open the entire rear wheel and the air was gone in a second.  In this case, just to show he can be merciful, Bibendum allowed this to happen close to home.

I’ve even had flats when riding the trainer in the garage.  If it happens to the front tire who cares, unless you are on rollers.  If it happens on the rear wheel then you have to deal with it.  My method always involves giving up on the training session and going back inside for a cup of coffee.  I just assume it’s Bibendum’s way of saying he doesn’t want me on the trainer that day.

Can you avoid flats?  No!  However, you can minimize them somewhat by paying attention to your tires.  It cracks me up when people complain about always getting flats and then you look at their tires and wonder how they even get out of the parking lot.  I mean really, if your tires have so many deep nicks and gouges that you get flats rolling your bike from the garage to your car then for Bibendum’s sake buy some new ones.

Like all Gods, Bibendum requires that you pay homage.  The cool thing is he gives you a choice.  You can either spend a little money replacing your tires when necessary or you can pay the equivalent sum in tubes and CO2 cartridges.  Being preventative also means you get to choose between replacing your tires in your warm garage with a cup of coffee nearby or changing a flat on the side of the road while cars go flying by and your fellow cyclists stand around taking deep breaths and telling you it’s ok that your flat just broke up the best pace line of the season. The choice is yours.

Now, go out and inspect your tires before your next ride.  After all, if you decide to chance it, Bibendum will be happy to join you on the ride and say hello.  It sounds a lot like pffffff!


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